Summer in London sees a stampede of rooftop bars opening, and winter brings its own festive bars. But plenty of places have rooftop bars open all year; booze with views... but no pop-up crowds.
Note: some are at the pricier end of the scale or require booking, and some have dress codes. It's also worth checking opening hours before you go, as they may occasionally be closed for private events.
Kensington Roof Gardens
The big mama of all London rooftops is Kensington Roof Gardens — it has real life flamingoes, and there's not a lot that can beat that. If you're not feeling thirsty, you can visit the Roof Gardens for free, provided there aren't any private events on, but it's best enjoyed on the Babylon Terrace with a cocktail in hand, perched right above Kensington High Street, and feeling a million miles away.
Kensington Roof Gardens, 99 Kensington High Street, W8 5SA
SkyLounge, Tower of London
This one's not in the Tower itself, unfortunately, but it's not far off, situated on the 12th floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel. It's actually two terraces, giving you views in pretty much any direction you like.
SkyLounge, 7 Pepys Street, EC3N 4AF
Of all the bars on this list, Radio Rooftop offers some of the best London views — and it's no surprise, with its central location 10 floors above Strand, right opposite Somerset House. Take an express lift from the hotel reception and get started on the themed cocktail menu (Mile High Margarita, anyone?). Comfy chairs and patio furniture make the terrace very in-demand in the summer months — why not make the most of the heaters in winter instead.
Radio Rooftop at ME London, 336-337 Strand, WC2R 1HA
Madison, One New Change
A lot of the venues on this list offer excellent views of London's most famous landmarks, but at this one, you're practically rubbing noses with St Paul's Cathedral.
It's located on the roof of One New Change shopping centre, just across the road from Wren's masterpiece. You can visit the rooftop for free during shopping centre opening hours, but it's worth kicking back with a cocktail and some bar snacks and enjoying the full effect.
Madison, One New Change, EC4M 9AF
Rumpus Room, Sea Containers
If you want Thames views from heady heights, Rumpus Room is the place. Situated on the 12th floor of Mondrian at Sea Containers, the indoor bar has floor to ceiling glass windows, and patio doors leading out to the river-side balcony. The canapé section is as high end as you might expect; foie gras, smoked salmon and the like, and the drinks list is extensive. Save this place for a treat.
Rumpus Room, Mondrian at Sea Containers, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD
Aqua Nueva, Regent Street
Lunch is served on this Regent Street terrace noon-3pm, but after that, it's open for drinks on a no-reservations basis. It's quite the sun trap on balmy days, and affords a fine view of Oxford Street and the West End. It's part of Aqua Kyoto, a high-end restaurant, and the crowd is suitably suited and booted. Suit and boots are, however, optional.
Aqua Nueva, 240 Regent Street, W1B 3BR
OXO Tower Bar
All three Harvey Nichols venues on the eighth floor of the Oxo Tower (the restaurant, the bar, and the brasserie) have their own terrace with views across the Thames. They all open year round, weather dependent. Check the forecast before you make your way up there.
Oxo Tower, Barge House Street, South Bank, SE1 9PH
Driver, King's Cross
The Driver is a venue of many levels; the first floor gastro pub and second floor bar give way to the saloon and penthouse before finally reaching the heady heights of the roof terrace. Grab yourself a drink and get comfy on a sofa — or hire the whole terrace for a barbecue.
The Driver, 2-4 Wharfdale Road, N1 9RY
This one's more of a restaurant than a bar, but if you're looking for sky-high Michelin-starred food, head to South Place Hotel, situated between Liverpool Street and Moorgate. Over lunch, it's an extension to the seafood restaurant, but cocktails and light snacks rule in the evening. Come winter, it's fitted with that holiest of all grails, a retractable roof and heaters.
Angler Restaurant, South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, EC2M 2AF
Ham Yard Hotel, Piccadilly Circus
We're seriously lamenting the fact that Ham Yard Hotel's roof terrace is only open to hotel guests or under private hire, as it looks gorgeous. As well as some rather comfy looking sofas, the rooftop is home to a kitchen garden and even some rooftop beehives.
Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, W1D 7DT
Coq D'Argent, Bank
On top of Bank's Bagpuss building, the heated terraces of Coq d'Argent function as an extension to the grill restaurant by day. By night, bar snacks are available to soak up the wine and cocktails.
Coq d'Argent, No.1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ
Vista, Trafalgar Square
This open air rooftop bar overlooking Trafalgar Square stays open throughout the winter with a special menu featuring all manner of mulling. In summer, it's a lovely (if often busy) place to go and look down on the unsuspecting tourists below.
Vista at the Trafalgar, 2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, Sw1A 2TS
Next time you walk pass Albion deli and cafe in Shoreditch, look up. There's a terrace up there, complete with rooftop orangery — part of the Boundary bar and grill. Lemons and clementines are among the fruits being grown. While the outside area is mainly reserved for drinks — including warm cocktails in the winter — you can also order from the grill menu. Tuck into seafood or a warming raclette while taking in the east London skyline.
Boundary Rooftop, 2-4 Boundary Street, Shoreditch, E2 7DD
Big Chill House, King's Cross
A lot livelier than some of the other venues on this list, Big Chill House is a bar serving food, with a roof terrace, and parties until 3am every Friday and Saturday night. The cocktail list here isn't extensive — focus is very much on craft beers, many produced in London. As a result, it's not as pricey as some of London's more upmarket roof hangouts.
Big Chill House, 257-259 Pentonville Road, N1 9NL
Queen of Hoxton
Two themed offerings, in summer and winter, render Queen of Hoxton's rooftop bar open for most of summer. Its warm weather offering usually runs from April-October, when it closes briefly before reopening in its winter transformation. Check website for current details.
Queen of Hoxton, 1 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, EC2A 3JX
Where have we missed? Let us know in the comments.